MISHAWAKA—When you think of Bethel, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Some might suggest chapel, while others might think of the Pilots’ mascot, Wilhem. But at a campus that promotes an interconnected culture, it will be a person who comes to mind. For one freshman, named Tyler, that person is one of the most well-known members of the Sodexo crew: Stir Fry Mike.
“When I think of Bethel, the first thing that comes to my mind is Chef Mike,” Tyler said. “He brings the heart and soul to this family.”
Stir Fry Mike, whose full name is Michael Phillips, has been with Bethel for almost 17 years, but it may surprise students to learn that not all his Bethel career has been spent at his familiar place in the stir fry line. He first began working for Bethel while he was still in high school; his father worked in Bethel’s Maintenance Department, and Phillips would help him out during the summers.
After high school, Philips spent about three years exploring his options elsewhere, but he did not lose all his Bethel connections, even during his time enrolled in culinary school at Ivy Tech Community College.
“I came to Bethel just seeking a job and money,” Philips said. “Surprisingly, I found myself doing a lot more.”
The opportunity to work at Bethel came through a kitchen connection that turned out to be the beginning of his journey to Bethel stir fry fame.
“Before Sodexo, there was a kitchen manager named Marsha,” Philips said. “She asked me, did I want to come and do floors for her at night; she knew in the past I did them with my dad around campus.”
So, Philips returned to Bethel, working on a night shift cleaning floors. As he demonstrated dedication to that task, the kitchen manager offered him a job with additional hours and higher wages: washing dishes. Philips said he was excited to accept this opportunity, and it was not long after that he was promoted to a cooking position.
“My message to all the students is simply always try to stay positive,” Philips said. “In life, you may have your ups and downs but keep your head up and keep going. Remember you only live once, so live your life to the fullest. If you find something you love and really want to do early in your life, put your all into that because that can take you places.”